Is the HIV PCR Test Best for Early Detection?

Q: Help! My girlfriend of two years just told me that she was unfaithful – and she tested positive for HIV! I’m so scared and worried right now, because we had unprotected sex a few weeks ago. I want to get tested right away, but I’m not sure if there are tests that will give me accurate results for early detection. I don’t want to wait for 12 weeks to be tested. I need to know, now. I heard about an HIV PCR test – what can you tell me about this form of testing?

A: First, take a deep breath and calm down. Just because your girlfriend has tested positive does not mean that you will test positive. Yes, you have been exposed, but there is still a good chance that you have not contracted the virus. Another important thing to remember is that medical technology has come a long way, with HIV treatment. Many people still live long, healthy lives while being positive, as long as they stick to their treatment plan.

The HIV PCR test is a great option for early detection of the virus. As opposed to the antibody test, which looks for the body’s immunological response to the virus, the PCR looks directly for the pro-viral DNA of HIV. The test is considered reliable very early on, but it is not considered conclusive until 28 days after an exposure. Since your exposure was a few weeks ago, you should be able to get reliable results from this type of testing, instead of waiting two more months for traditional screening. After the collection has been performed, we typically see results in 3-5 business days.